Structures created and destroyed for storm damage simulations


Two mobile trailers and a five-hundred square-foot structure built for USAA Insurance and Precision Hawk in order to simulate storm damage were constructed and torn apart over the course of two weeks.

The Automated Fabrication & Design Lab was recruited by USAA Insurance to help test new storm damage assessment technology which will use drones to fly over and evaluate houses immediately following storm damage. For the project, student workers designed and constructed two mobile roof trailers meant to simulate the roof of a five-hundred square-foot house. These trailers were capable of adjusting to varying pitches and were fully mobile in order to maneuver for different testing scenarios. Additionally, student workers also designed a full-size five-hundred square-foot house structure which was built in sections for removal to simulate tornado damage.

Once the house and the trailers were built, representatives from USAA and Precision Hawk spent a week out at the Automated Fabrication & Design Lab instructing the student workers how to destroy the structures the damage was recorded with a drone. Using various hammers and specialized equipment, the mobile roof trailers sustained half-inch to two-inch diameter hail damage.

The greatest undertaking of the project was to simulate tornado strike damage on the house structure. Using crowbars, sledgehammers, and drills, student workers slowly destroyed the house. The drone was flown over the house at four different stages of destruction in order to observe damage from different classes of tornadoes. At twenty-five percent damage, the roofing, trusses, insulation, and sheetrock started to become exposed. At seventy-five percent damage the front wall of the house was dropped. Finally, at one-hundred percent damage the entire structure was collapsed in on itself.

Student workers learned a great deal about house construction during this two week process. According to student worker Jacob Pasket, “This project taught us that as a shop overall, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.”


posted June 30, 2015